What photography taught me about technology

Jakob Hürner · November 1, 2021

Jakob’s Professional blog

For 20+ years, photography is one of my greatest hobbies. As a digital native, photography for me meant digital photography from day one on. In the course of twenty years there was quite a lot of technological progress in this field. This made me think about general technology lessons I have taken from photography into my professional work.

Actually, I think mastering photography has quite some similarities with my professional work in managing and leading digitalisation programs. Both disciplines require a solid proficiency level of technologies and techniques. Those need to be combined with creativity and a good sense for people and the world around you. This brings me to my first lesson about technology in the photography field.

80% (creativity & skills & right moment) and 20% technology

To be honest, it took me some time to acknowledge that great photography does not require the best equipment. Great photography is more about the person behind the camera than it is about cameras and lenses.

Actually, in my 20 years of photography I cannot recall many situations in which the camera in my hand was the limiting factor in taking the photo I wanted. More and more I come to the conclusion that the perfect photo is mainly the result of the right moment and light (requires patience!), the creative approach, personal photography skills and sufficient equipment - all coming together in this moment.

taken with a mid-range smartphone Samsung Galaxy W in 2012 (!)

Image above: taken with a mid-range smartphone Samsung Galaxy W in 2012 (!)

Great technology blends into the background

Based on the equation for the perfect photo above, I would argue that you have the largest lever in everything non-technical, and avoid being distracted by handling your equipment! Hence, good photography technology is intuitive, simple and lets you focus on composing the picture.

"Full focus on the important things, less important things should be blurred in the background"

Image above: “Full focus on the important things, less important things should be blurred in the background”

Especially digital photography had its rough edges in the beginning. Simple example is the poor battery life of early digital cameras, which made you think more about the remaining charge than the right image composition. That is a problem of the past. Overall, modern digital cameras do a really good job in automatically handling everything technical quite well in day-to-day use (and allow manual input if wished).

The future of photography technology innovation is software

For me the greatest innovation concerning photography in the last years is the software found in modern smartphones - developments often summarised under the term “computational photography”.

taken handheld with the iPhone 12 mini in automatic nightmode

Image above: taken handheld with the iPhone 12 mini in automatic nightmode

For example, the nightmode of your (tiny) smartphone camera is capable of capturing great handheld pictures of really dim scenes - unthinkable with great equipment even 10 years ago. The camera is able to do it by taking, unnoticed by the user, multiple pictures of the scene with different settings and combining it in a smart way to the final photo.

The development of sensor hardware does bring improvements to the game, but the real innovation in my point of view comes from the very advanced software and and use of data (machine learning).

Transfer to work

I am convinced you can observe the points above also in other areas than photography. I can see it in my work environment too: Technology is always just one part of the equation of success, with the softer factors (like creativity, skills, and a good sense for the right timing) in the end often being more crucial than the hard factors. Following that, the hard factors like technology ideally blend in the background to give room and resources to focus on the “right” things.

Finally, I expect that software and software-driven innovation will become very dominant in even more fields in the coming years. For all affected organisations this implies the need for learning of software competences and culture to be ready for this future.

If you would like to read more of my blog, check out the list of posts here!